Release The Power Of The Fish Bowl

Charles Schwab learned a valuable lesson early in his career about the power of the fish bowl.  He was disappointed with the results from one of his steel plants. There were two shifts working around the clock, each producing 3-5 "results" per shift.  One night he decided to try the fish bowl to see if he could increase the production. He grabbed a piece of chalk and drew a big number “5” on the floor of the plant and left the chalk. When the incoming crew asked what the number was, he told them it was the production of the previous shift. Driven by their competitive spirit, that shift was determined to beat the previous. When they finished, they wrote a big “6” in chalk next to the “5.” When the returning shift saw the results, they put out “7” on their next round. By the end of the week both shifts were averaging “10” and competitively reporting their results with the chalk. Here are a few thoughts on how to release the power of the fish bowl in your company:

1) The fish bowl works equally well for results that you want to increase as well as negative things that you want to eliminate. All you have to do is expose the current results, identify the desired results, and then agree on what actions you are going to track to get there.

2) Human beings are innately competitive. Embrace that quality and use the fish bowl to create healthy competition. There will likely be some initial push back, but it usually comes from those that are not producing.  

3) Once you determine what you want to go in the fish bowl, come up with a way for your team members to self-report. This removes the need to have someone in the business spend time tracking down information.  

4) Communicating in a fish bowl is the opposite of micromanagement and is a great way to make a big impact with the higher ups in your business. It removes the need for someone to ask what you are doing because they already know. There is not a more vulnerable position for any team member than when no one knows what they are doing. 

Charles Schwab taught us a great lesson on how to use our competitive spirit to drive results.  To take it one step further and utilize technology, such as an application called “Rivalry," to create a way for your team to self-report their results. When poor performance has no place to hide, it will usually find a new home. 


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